Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf receives Emily Winifred Dickson Award from RCSI

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf receives Emily Winifred Dickson Award

Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia, Africa’s first female head of state and Nobel Peace Laureate, has been awarded the Emily Winifred Dickson award from RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Emily Winifred Dickson broke boundaries when she became a Fellow of RCSI in 1893, making her the first female Fellow of any of the surgical royal colleges in Britain and Ireland. RCSI established the Emily Winifred Dickson Award in honour of the achievements of this pioneering woman. The award recognises women who have made an outstanding contribution to their field.

Known as "Africa's Iron Lady", Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a leading promoter of freedom, peace, justice, women's empowerment and democratic rule. As President of Liberia, she led the country through reconciliation and recovery following the nation's decade-long civil war, as well as the Ebola crisis, winning international acclaim for achieving economic, social and political change. She has been a strong voice for women's roles in peacebuilding and in 2011 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work and achievements.

In recent years, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has staunchly advocated for community health workers and free primary healthcare as a means to protect against the spreading of infectious diseases.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has taken up the position as Co-chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, an independent body tasked with providing an evidence-based path for the future to ensure that countries and institutions can effectively address health threats. She continues to promote vaccine equity and a fair distribution of vaccines across the globe.

Addressing the online ceremony, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said: "Emily Winifred Dickson was a trailblazer whose daring examples shattered long-held myths about the potential and capacities of women. Gender equity in community healthcare results in better health outcomes and has the potential to lift hundreds of thousands of women and families out of poverty. In memory of Emily, we must continue to advance the cause of women's empowerment, gender equity and increase participation of women in leadership."

Presenting the award, Professor Hannah McGee, Chief Academic Officer and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, said: "Overcoming many structural barriers, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has used her position as a democratic leader to establish unity and peace in Liberia, promote economic and social development, and work towards strengthening the position of women in society. Through her actions, she has inspired and uplifted a generation of women and girls to 'find your voice', using her platform to advocate for people in communities who have too often been ignored or go unheard."

Professor Cathal Kelly, RCSI CEO, said: "We are greatly honoured to present the Emily Winifred Dickson Award to Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in recognition of her outstanding achievements and contribution to society globally. As a champion of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and an advocate for inclusive healthcare, she calls on all of us to ensure no one is left behind and that the needs are met for all segments of society."

The award presented to Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a specially commissioned piece by Imogen Stuart RHA, one of Ireland's foremost sculptors.

Watch the award ceremony below, or alternatively watch Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s guest address on RCSI's YouTube channel here.

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